The volume of residential water supplied in Australia fell by three per cent in 2014–2015 and there was a 13 per cent increase in utilities supplying recycled water, a new national report has found.

The Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology’s National Performance Report 201415: urban water utilities is an annual report that compares Australia’s urban water utilities’ pricing structures and service quality.

The report details water resources, finance, pricing, assets, health, environment and customer numbers information collected from 80 water utilities and councils, and seven bulk water suppliers.

The Bureau’s Assistant Director of Water Information Services, Dr Ian Prosser, said that while surface water remains the dominant source of water in Australia, the increase in recycled water supplied by medium to large utilities, included supplies to many large regional utilities and councils.

“This increase reflects the reduced availability of surface water and the need to diversify supply sources in the face of growing demand,” Dr Prosser said.

“This year we have also seen an end of increases to national median water supply to residential properties, following the end of the millennium drought and the associated easing of water restrictions.

“This may be linked to temperatures in 2014–15 not being as extreme as previous years, although they were above average. The plateau in water use is positive for Australia.”

The national median typical residential bill for water and sewage rose by four per cent in 2014–15, increasing to $1,299 in 2014–15 from $1,255 the year before.

Australian urban water utilities spent $3.022billion on water supply and sewage services in 2014–15, which is a four per cent ($126million) decrease from the previous year.

The median combined operating expenditure, on a dollar-per-property basis, fell five per cent to $850 per property in 2014–15, down from $892 in 2013–14.

Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) Executive Director, Mr Adam Lovell, welcomed the report and the continued transparency of the urban water industry through this type of robust and regular public reporting.

“Australia’s urban water sector is well trusted by the community, as demonstrated by the continued reduction in the national median for water and sewage complaints,” Mr Lovell said.

“While utilities continue to focus on meeting customer and stakeholder needs they are also diversifying their supplies. With increases in the nationwide recycled water supplied, the industry continues to play an essential role in the productivity and liveability of our cities and regions.

“Utilities across Australia are also seeking to be more efficient as demonstrated by the decrease in the median operating costs per property of five per cent.”

This is the tenth annual national urban water performance report and the second released by the Bureau of Meteorology.

The National Water Commission produced previous reports.

The most recent report was prepared by the Bureau, the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) and state and territory governments.

The independent and public nature of the report helps consumers and government determine whether the water sector is operating in an efficient and cost effective manner.

It contributes to the Bureau’s Improving Water Information Program, which is building a comprehensive and reliable picture of Australia’s water resources to support policy and planning.

Read the full report here. 

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